Are you innovative every single day? Most likely, the answer is no. Innovation seems to be left to the outliers—the team that was assigned to be innovative. It’s not something that you think about incorporating into your daily workflow.
An innovation consultant and entrepreneur, Annabel Acton says you can incorporate innovation into your daily routine. Inspired by the book A Beautiful Constraint by Adam Morgan and Mark Barden, Acton identified these four ways to focus on innovation, as we share in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.
1. Turn “Can’t” Into “Can If.” As Acton points out, when you meet a roadblock, it’s natural to throw your hands up and want to walk away. She suggests that the next time you start to say, “We can’t because …”, change your dialog to “We can if …” Sometimes the answer is right in front of you, it’s just not obvious. Acton uses the example of Leura Spielman, the founder of Laurel and Wolf, an online design marketplace. Spielman had no money to build an app prototype for her online business. After some “can if” thinking, she realized she didn’t need to build an app right away; she could get the results, feedback and information she needed by using a simple survey template. From this, she gained solid proof of concept and was able to raise capital.
2. Access Your Assets. Instead of thinking of the assets you own, think of the assets that you can access. Who can you partner with for distribution or for shared customers or resources? You don’t have to be everything, just be connected with what can make you better. She uses the example of ColaLife, an organization with the idea to bring life-saving medicines to parts of Africa. It just lacked the distribution. So, the company identified Coca-Cola as a partner with all the distribution it could ever hope for; and went after them. So look around you. Who has the infrastructure, assets or people that can help you with your goal?
3. Ask Impossible Questions. Weirdly, in the context of innovation, impossible questions are what drive creativity and problem-solving. You need to look at other possibilities for the same goal. She uses the example of a quick-serve Thai restaurant in New York City. Instead of getting its name out through television advertising, the company did something better. It created an image for the brand through unusual packaging that was different from the standard take-out carton. This creative packaging became part of their brand identity, giving them greater ROI at a lower cost than the television advertising.
4. Put Constraints On Yourself. We’re not always up against constraints. In some parts of our working lives, we actually have it pretty good. Ironically, this can be a challenge in itself and often results in us moving slowly and less creatively against our problem. The solution? Put constraints on yourself. That’s right: Deliberately limit your time, budget or resources. This self-imposed pressure will help to drive creativity and innovation as well. Acton suggests that if there’s a large task or issue that’s been on your to-do list for weeks, dedicate to spending only 15 minutes a day on this task. You’ll discover that those 15 minutes every day will add up to progress towards completion of your task or goal.
Challenge yourself to overcome roadblocks and experience the results of innovation.
Source: Annabel Acton founded the website Never Liked It Anyway in January 2012, after working for seven years as an innovation and branding consultant in Sydney, London and New York. Naturally entrepreneurial and inspired by ideas, Acton soaks up the energy of the startup world and enjoys meeting, developing and partnering with other entrepreneurs.